Two heavily armed militants from the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) were overpowered by residents of Tuksan Dhok village in J&K’s Reasi district on Sunday, prompting Lt Governor Manoj Sinha to announce a cash reward of Rs 5 lakh and say that “with this kind of determination shown by villagers, the final days of terrorism are not far’’.
J&K Police identified the two captured militants as Talib Hussain Shah from Draj village in Rajouri and Faizal Ahmed Dar from Pulwama. Two AK-47 rifles, seven grenades, a pistol, and a large quantity of ammunition were seized from the militants, they said.
Speaking to The Indian Express, BJP’s J&K Minority Morcha president Sheikh Bashir said: “Talib Shah of Draj, Kotranka (Rajouri), had been working with the party for quite some time and he was made in charge of the IT and Social Media Cell of the Minority Morcha on May 9. However, he did not attend any of the Morcha meetings. On May 27, he himself quit the party position as also the organisation.’’
J&K BJP president Ravinder Raina, however, said Shah was “never even a primary member” of the party. Raina described photos of him on Shah’s Facebook page as “a tactic by terror groups to show themselves as party workers so as to have access to party leaders and attack them at the first opportunity”.
According to the police, Shah and Dar were overpowered by local residents who saw them “moving in the area”. “They snatched their weapons and tied them with ropes before informing the nearby police station in Mahore tehsil,” said a police officer.
The police described Shah as a self-styled LeT commander who was on the run after two associates, Mohammad Shabir and Mohammad Sadiq from Draj, were arrested during a joint operation by the police and security forces last Tuesday. Five IEDs, five remote control devices, 19 cells, a piece of cloth and 10 fuses were recovered from them, police said.
The police had also announced a “suitable reward’’ for those providing information leading to Shah’s arrest. Apart from Lt Governor Sinha, J&K Police DGP Dilbagh Singh announced a cash reward of Rs 2 lakh for Tuksan Dhok residents involved in the capture.
According to the police, both the apprehended militants were in touch with a Pakistan-based LeT handler identified as “Salman” while Talib Shah was also in “constant touch” with an LeT terrorist identified as Qasim in Pakistan.
On his Facebook page “Talib Shah Bjp Bjp’’, Shah claimed to be working with BJP. His account also has a purported photograph of him with BJP’s J&K president Raina at the party headquarters in Jammu. Another photograph carried a message: “I support NaMo’’.
Referring to his photograph on Shah’s Facebook page, J&K BJP chief Raina said: “A large number of people visit us in our offices but they are unable to do any harm in view of the security bandobast there… The BJP has zero tolerance for terrorists and its government will neutralise all those involved in terror activities irrespective of who they are.”
Sources in the J&K Police described Shah as the “mastermind of all terror activities in the Pir Panjal area”, comprising the border districts of Rajouri and Poonch, “during the last 2-3 years”, including killings and grenade attacks. “He had also motivated many local youth to carry out terror activities in Rajouri, include Shabir and Sadiq, who were arrested,” the sources said.
Jammu-based Army PRO Lt Colonel Devender Anand attributed the capture of the two LeT militants to “security forces assisting villagers in organising themselves into Village Defence Committees and giving them training to operate and fire rifles’’.
“The villages have become aatmanirbhar (self-reliant) in the true sense to defend against terrorists,’’ he said.
Pointing out that the region has witnessed a “prolonged period of peace and stability”, he said this has resulted in a “number of development initiatives, which are bringing prosperity to the people”.
Lt Colonel Anand said repeated attempts are being made to revive terrorism and destabilise the region. “However, now the people of this region are totally against these attempts. They are determined not to let the region relapse into the dark era of the past few decades where many innocents were killed… (They) have now taken it upon themselves to go after these terrorists and nab them,” he said.